Named one of Brooklyn Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture" in 2016, Zaheer Ali is the Oral Historian at Brooklyn Historical Society, a nationally recognized urban history center founded in 1863, dedicated to preserving and encouraging the study of the history of Brooklyn, New York. As Brooklyn Historical Society's Oral Historian, he records, collects, archives, and curates the lived histories, testimonies, memoirs, and narrations of Brooklynites from all walks of life. In this capacity, he co-directs Voices of Generations: Investigating Brooklyn's Cultural Identity, a project to digitize, process, catalog, and make accessible online nearly 500 interviews that are part of ten oral history collections; and he directs Voices of Crown Heights, a multi-year oral history project on the history and future of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Additionally, he co-hosts and co-produces Flatbush + Main, Brooklyn Historical Society's monthly podcast dedicated to Brooklyn's multi-layered histories and dynamic present.
Previously, he served under the direction of the late Manning Marable, as project manager and senior researcher of the Malcolm X Project (MXP) at Columbia University--a multi-year research initiative on the life and legacy of Malcolm X. As project manager, he was associate editor of an online annotated multimedia version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X (2004), and later contributed as a lead researcher for Marable's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (2011). In February 2015, he was a featured narrator in CNN's one-hour documentary, "Witnessed: The Assassination of Malcolm X," and authored the accompanying essay for the documentary's website.
He has taught college-level courses on Islam in Black America, Malcolm X, and African American studies; and he is currently an adjunct lecturer at New York University's School of Professional Studies, where he teaches American history.
He is finishing his doctoral studies in history at Columbia University, where he is focusing his research on twentieth-century African-American history and religion. His dissertation examines the history of the Nation of Islam's Temple/Mosque No. 7 in Harlem, New York, from 1954-1965, during the time of Malcolm X’s ministry.
He is an alumnus of Harvard University, a Mellon Mays scholar, a recipient of Columbia University's Merit Scholars Graduate Fellowship, and a multi-year recipient of the Social Science Research Council's Mellon Mays Pre-Doctoral Research Grant.
Zaheer Ali has given presentations in both academic and non-academic settings, and is available to speak on a broad range of topics, including Islam and Black America, the history of Black nationalism and the Black freedom movement, the life and legacy of Malcolm X, and the importance of historical preservation through oral history and archiving.
For more information, please direct all inquiries via email.
(Photographs: Omar Mullick)